“Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson is an iconic work of creativity for The Culture. A game changing song and video that is no doubt a #CultureClassic.
The song was the second single from Janet’s fourth studio album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 which released in 1989. It was written and produced by Jackson, and her long-time collaboration partners (and super-producers in their own right) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song was Jackson’s response to various tragedies in the media, with her choosing to create a socially conscious record combining political statements with her signature upbeat dance music.
And despite it’s somewhat controversial nature, the song was one of the biggest hits of her career. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was #1 on both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Dance Club Songs charts. “Rhythm Nation” received a number of accolades, including the BMI Pop Award for “Most Played Song”, the Billboard Award for “Top Dance/Club Play Single” and a Grammy nomination for Jackson as “Producer of the Year.”
And don’t sleep on the visuals. The music video for “Rhythm Nation” is just as iconic and memorable as the song. It was directed by Dominic Sena, and was the anchor for Jackson’s long-form Rhythm Nation 1814 film. It was filmed in black-and-white to portray the song’s theme of racial unity and set in a “post-apocalyptic” warehouse. Oh and the choreography? It is still being emulated by young performers both in and out of The Culture to this day.
Jackson’s record label attempted to talk her out of filming the video but Jackson stuck to her artistic vision. And her decision paid off in a major way as the video received two MTV Video Music Awards for “Best Choreography” and “Best Dance Video”. Jackson herself won the Billboard Award for “Best Female Video Artist” in addition to the “Director’s Award” and “Music Video Award for Artistic Achievement.” The Rhythm Nation 1814 film won the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. And the video’s iconic blacked out, military style outfit was inducted into the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where its hand-written lyrics are also used in the museum’s class on female songwriters.
“Rhythm Nation” is so popular and Janet Jackson song it has been included in two of Jackson’s greatest hits collections. Both Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1995) and Number Ones (2009).
If you enjoyed that look at a throwback Hip-Hop/R&B classic. Check out more of our #CultureClassics:
Written by @TalentedMrFord